Federal Policy | Reducing Regulatory Barriers to Housing Act | June 13, 2024

The Making of the Reducing Regulatory Barriers to Housing Act

Written by Up for Growth

Reading time: 5 minutes

When staff from Sen. Fetterman and Rep. Blunt Rochester’s offices asked Up for Growth to help with a new federal housing bill that aimed to be effective AND broadly popular, we understood the assignment. Read the interview with our Policy team, David Garcia and Anjali Kolachalam, to see how Up for Growth members helped the Reducing Regulatory Barriers to Housing Act make it onto the congressional docket. 

David Garcia: Early on, we had to make sure that the bill authors were on the same page about which specific outcomes the bill intended to drive. During this push, we collaborated very closely with staff at Senator Fetterman and Representative Blunt Rochester’s offices to narrow down the list of potential outcomes to the ones that struck the right balance of feasibility and impact.

Anjali Kolachalam: We polled key segments from our member network to get initial reactions to the bill text. We were careful to include diverse perspectives in terms of stakeholder type, geography, scope (state, local, regional, or national) and, of course, political alignment. What we found is that stakeholders were broadly interested and curious in the potential of this bill but had concerns about the perception of federal preemption.
David Garcia: Because each of the sponsors wanted broad support for the bill and we knew that the likeliest tension was whether the federal government should be involved in state and local zoning issues at all, we were super cautious about the implication of federal involvement in zoning.
Sometimes certain words will cause folks to be closed off to an idea even before the substance of it is revealed. And because this bill, from the start, was meant to be an assist from the federal government rather than an intervention, we wanted to make sure the actual language didn’t scare anyone off.
Anjali Kolachalam: Another thing we ran into during this time was less about the language and more about the mechanisms the bill employed to accomplish its goals. The original draft assumed that HUD would need a new entity to oversee the work detailed in the bill, but, when we spoke with HUD and other officials, it became clear that, with additional resources, the Office of Policy Research and Development could carry out the bill’s provisions.
There were about a hundred other tweaks to the bill during this period. But each stakeholder we talked to got us a little bit closer to the final product you see today. I remember one tenet in the initial draft – it provided additional funding for the Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse. By the time we got to the final draft, it had completely changed! The current bill includes a new mechanism for tracking policies and practices. Input from the member network really is our secret weapon to making housing legislation that can be successful at the federal level.
David Garcia:  As we felt we were closing in on a final draft, it was time for us to enlist the early endorsements of key industry groups as well as potential Republican co-sponsors. The American Planning Association was an important and early player in this process. Of course, if you are drafting a bill that supports planners in their efforts to increase housing production, you better make sure the planners are present from the get-go. So, we worked very closely with them to enlist other key stakeholders to hone the final bill into one that really has the potential to be transformative for a lot of people.
We are still working on gaining an official Republican sponsor of the bill. Though, I can say with confidence that there is more than one Republican legislator who thinks this bill is good policy. There are, of course, heightened political implications in this election year, but we feel strongly that we will be able to get Republican support.

With over a hundred current endorsements, The Reducing Regulatory Barriers to Housing Act had its bicameral introduction on Wednesday, June 6. Follow along here and in the member newsletter to track its progress.